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Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 6)

Written by David Lapakko 

The pre-digital era of paper

Throughout almost the entire 20th century, digital, electronic communication simply didn’t exist.  But thanks to our abundant forests, there was plenty of paper!

Until the dawn of the 21st century, campus mailboxes were a buzzing hub of messaging.  Whether you were a student or faculty, if you wanted to know what was going on, you went to Christiansen and checked your mailbox.  That included everything the Registrar might want you to know, everything about special campus events, and pretty much what every campus organization wanted to announce to the Augsburg community.  If you ignored your paper mail for a few days, you might return to a little box stuffed to the gills with such messages.  When Foss Center opened in 1988, for example, we wanted to host an open house for the entire campus on a weekday evening, and so the department ran off 2000 photocopied invitations to the event–only to find, after stuffing them all, that the flyer didn’t include the date!  You can guess what that meant: a follow-up mailing!

There’s a reason why such messaging is referred to these days as “snail mail.”  If a faculty member wanted to get a transcript for one of their advisees, they would need to fill out a form, put it in campus mail to the Registrar, and then wait a couple of days for a paper copy of the transcript to be returned via campus mail.  Now, of course, we can get electronic transcripts of any advisee in less than 60 seconds.  And since there was no Moodle on which to put handouts or other documents, the campus copy center was another venue that was often crazy-busy–especially since there were, at best, only a handful of photocopiers available elsewhere on campus.

In the end, if it wasn’t on paper, it didn’t exist.  But that was our “normal” at the time, and it seemed just as normal as needing to find a telephone attached to a jack on the wall (what we now call a “landline”) in order to call a friend.  Those were the smartest phones we had.